Foreign secretary S Jaishankar made a quiet trip to Beijing three days ago and held discussions with Chinese officials on India’s bid to enter a club of countries controlling access to sensitive nuclear technology, the government has said.
Ahead of a key Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) plenary in Seoul, New Delhi has stepped up its diplomatic outreach to China, which is holding out against giving India the membership of the 48-nation bloc.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said the foreign secretary was in China from June 16-17 “for bilateral consultations with his Chinese counterpart”.
“All major issues, including India’s NSG membership, were discussed,” he said.
The NSG aims to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons by restricting the sale of items that can be used to make those arms. It was set up in response to India’s first nuclear test in 1974.
The group, which controls the global nuclear trade, is to hold an important plenary from June 23-24 in Seoul when the membership application of India and Pakistan are expected to be taken up.
India has got the backing of most countries, including the US, Britain, Italy, Mexico and Switzerland. Russia too has strongly backed India’s bid.
China is opposing India’s membership on the grounds that it is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Beijing says if the rules are relaxed for India, Pakistan too should get the benefits.
The handful of other nations resisting India’s admission to the group, including South Africa, New Zealand and Turkey, softened their stance somewhat, opening the door to a process under which non-NPT states such as India might join.
But, opponents argue that granting India membership would further undermine efforts to prevent proliferation. It would also infuriate India’s rival Pakistan, an ally of China’s, which has responded to India’s membership bid with one of its own.
The Chinese media has said India’s entry will “shake the strategic balance in South Asia and even cast a cloud over peace and stability in the entire Asia-Pacific region”.
An opinion piece in the state-run Global Times daily said this week that China could support India’s inclusion to the elite nuclear club if New Delhi “played by the rules”.
Jaishankar’s meeting with Chinese leaders comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tashkent in Uzbekistan where he will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on June 23 at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit.
India and Pakistan are set to be formally inducted as members of the China-led SCO at the meeting.